The 18th edition of our most prestigious chamber music gathering, the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival (JCMF), is almost upon us.
The annual exposition of small ensemble classical endeavor will take place at the YMCA September 3 to 12, in collaboration with the Jerusalem Music Center. Perennial artistic director and celebrated pianist Elena Bashkirova has, as ever, put together a wide-ranging program with a broad swathe of themes and a top-quality lineup of artists from here and abroad, some of whom will be making their debut here.
This year’s event incorporates two central themes. One focuses on the work of European composers who made the move across the Atlantic and settled in the United States, where they produced much of their finest work. Some relocated for positive motives, to take their place in the emerging cultural community of the New World while others, including Jewish composers such as Schoenberg, and artists who fell foul of the Soviet regime such as Stravinsky, had to flee their homeland in order to survive.
The upcoming 10-dayer is also the first leg of a two-year examination of Beethoven’s groundbreaking string quartets and piano trios, music that would have such an enormous impact on all subsequent chamber music. The program features several of his half dozen early opus 18 quartets, the revolutionary opus 59 quartets, and the feted piano trios.
The festival agenda incorporates an eclectic collection of items, dipping into contemporary as well as classical works, with much betwixt. In a special concert that will take place on September 4, Hungarian-born, London-based Jewish pianist and conductor Sir András Schiff will perform a piano recital of works by Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert. A week later, there will be another extra-festival slot dedicated to festival board member Meir Barlach, who died earlier this year, which features Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet in B minor and Schubert’s String Quintet in C major.
Fans of more modern fare will no doubt revel in performances of Zemlinksy’s Trio for Clarinet, Cello & Piano in D minor, and Duo for Violin & Cello by Czech modern classical composer Bohuslav Martin, while the festival artistic director’s violinist son Michael Barenboim will take part in a reading the String Sextet in D major by 20th-century Jewish Czech composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold.
The lineup for the latter work also includes Korean-born American cellist Tim Park, who will gather no moss in Jerusalem, performing in six concerts over the 10 days of the festival. In addition to the Zemlinksy, Korngold and Martin slots, Park will take his place in renditions of works by Schoenberg and Prokofiev, as well as the world premiere of Stabat Mater by Jordanian-German composer Saed Haddad.
Born to Korean parents, Park grew up in New York and began cello lessons at the age of eight. He entered the Juilliard School at age 11 and continued studies at Yale University with Brazilian-born American cellist and cello teacher Aldo Parisot. Despite his early start on his current instrument, Park managed to get some wind-based tuition in even before that.
“I actually began with the bassoon,” says Park. “I began cello lessons at eight and remember my father listening to records of [Hungarian-born Jewish cellist] Janos Starker and [Russian-born Jewish cellist] Gregor Piatigorsky. I don’t come from a music family, rather a doctors one, but there was always a love and appreciation for music at home.”
It must have been something of a daunting experience for Park to mix it with students many years his senior at Juilliard, but he says he gained important musical and other benefits from his early start to his institutionalized education.
“As a child and teenager, I was already exposed to chamber music and orchestral playing as a student at the Juilliard School Pre-College Division. This was a great opportunity for me to discover and learn repertoire, as well as learn important musical social skills,” he says.
Despite being admitted to the prestigious New York music school at such an early age, Park also fed off some of the more commercial contemporary sounds of his childhood and youth, although having moved to the States at a very young age, Asian music did not play a formative role in his professional development.
“I grew up listening to a lot of classical music, “notes Park. “My family and I went regularly to concerts in New York, the New York Philharmonic, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, 92nd Street Y, on the radio WQXR, to name a few. I was also influenced, like any teenager, by pop culture and listened to everything from Billy Joel, Michael Jackson and a lot of rap! I didn’t grow up listening to Korean music. The only time I was exposed to Korean music was when I was in Korea visiting family.”
Park is clearly blessed with an abundance of natural gifts, but he says there is no way of avoiding the graft.
“I have to say that I have had great teachers to thank for my technical capabilities. Of course, one has to do the work and exercises, but great guidance was very helpful. Also, putting the practice into actual concert experience was helpful in technical development.”
Now a seasoned globe-trotting professional, Park says he is just as enthused today to invest in his craft as he was when he first set out.
“I don’t think my approach to music has changed over the years. I have the same curiosity and joy learning and relearning, discovering and rediscovering music now as much as when I was a child.”
While an established star of the global classical music circuit, Park tends to keep his performance and recording options open.
“I am performing, together with soprano Angela Denoke, an evening of songs by Kurt Weill and [Austrian Weill contemporary Hanns] Eisler at the Salzburger Festspiele [which takes place just prior to the JCMF]. I have also played and recorded on a jazz album and recorded on several hip-hop songs.”
Park has performed at the festival in the past and says he particularly enjoys the intimacy of the event, as well as the quality of his fellow professionals.
“It is a musical family with returning and new members with a similar attitude of sharing and refreshing ideas and friendships through the love of music making at the highest level. I am grateful to be a part of its musical family,” he says.
In addition to Park, Israeli audiences will be able to enjoy polished performances by the likes of soprano Claire Meghnagi; clarinetist Shirley Brill; Nazarethborn violinist Yamen Saadi; and the seasoned skills of Bashkirova herself.For tickets and more information: (02) 625-0444 and www.jcmf.org.il